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'We have a right to go to school without fear' | Students go head-to-head with DC’s police chief

A group of DC students created an anti-gun PSA in their new push against DC gun violence. This video comes as the homicide rate reaches 145, a nearly 50 percent jump from where District murders were around this same time last year.

WASHINGTON -- A group of DC students joined forces with GroundMedia to create a one-minute, Anti-Gun Violence PSA for their fellow peers.

“At a certain point, you start to think this is normal,” said a Thurgood Marshall Student Public Service Announcement.

Another young voice in the video says right after, “You think that gun violence is just going to happen.”

A third voice kicks-in, “But this is not normal. Every community does not experience this.”

This is how these DC students are fighting back against increasing gun violence in the District's streets.

As of November 9th, DC Police recorded 145 murders in Washington, DC The murder rate is up nearly 50 percent from where it was this time last year.

For the past several weeks, WUSA9 has been reporting on the city's jump in homicides. This time around, there are some new voices in the fight: a student group that wants to end gun violence, or at least put a dent in it, with their new initiative and student group called, “Pathways 2 Power.”

Pathways 2 Power created the PSA, which then opened the doors to something else, a one-on-one with the DC’s Chief of Police.

At this Thursday meeting, the students did not hold back.

The group of 11 students all answered no, telling the DC Police Chief Peter Newsham, they do not want to be police officers when they grow up. This was not meant as a “dig” at police. Their answers were part of an open, honest dialogue discussing how to stop gun violence.

“I feel like we just need to build between each other, so that we can feel like we’re being protected. So we could feel safe. So that we could be comfortable with you guys because like we said, it’s not normal to walk around and have these, you know, these wonderful police, who are here to protect us. But we just don’t feel that way simple because we don’t know you,” said one of the Thurgood Marshall Academy students.

Jayla Holdip and Keron Campbell are a part of that group. The two seniors told WUSA9 they’ve had family members shot.

“We did a lab that day. He was my partner,” said Holdip, talking about Zaire Kelly.

The whole school mourned last year when Kelly, a classmate on his way home from a college prep course, was shot and killed trying to fend off a robber.

This is not the only student they’ve mourned.

“I live in neighborhoods, in Ward 7 that experiences a lot of violence and me just walking to the 7-Eleven is scary for me because I don’t if I’m going to make it back home to see my mother,” said Campbell.

“We have a right to go to school without fear. We’re not born into this world with hatred, we’re born with love. We recognize our greatness and our ability and we deserve a future,” the PSA said.

Ben’s Chili Bowl gave the students a space to unveil their video with the council members and police leading their neighborhoods.

“Poverty and ignorance I feel are the biggest contributors to gun violence,” said a female student during the discussion.

They talked about all kinds of issues: access to illegal guns, poverty, job programs. The students asked for more police, more safe passages from school after dark…but for these students, what’s really hurting is the trust.

“They all said that they know of really good police officers but you also heard them say at their school, they don’t want to feel as though the police are watching them. They want to feel as though the police are providing safety for them and that’s a challenge for us. We just have to continue to move towards each other on those issues,” said DC Police Chief Peter Newsham.

“Don’t let this be the last time we see you guys’ faces,” said one of the students to the officers present.

While this student said she doesn’t want to join MPD, she did admit, she wants to work in law enforcement. The student told the chief her goal is to one day work for the FBI.

The students are also asking all of DC to not forget about them.

WUSA9 created a map to keep track of where all the homicides have been this year. Red means an illegal gun was used.

Thurgood Marshall Academy is right in heat, in Southeast, DC. You can follow these students and their hard work on Twitter: @P2PDC.

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